What Happens to A Guardianship When the Ward Dies?

What happens when a ward dies? Is the guardianship proceeding automatically over? Does the guardian need to do anything else?

Minnesota Statute 524.5-317 addresses these issues. It provides:

(a) A guardianship terminates upon the death of the ward or upon order of the court.

(b) On petition of any person interested in the ward’s welfare the court may terminate a guardianship if the ward no longer needs the assistance or protection of a guardian. The court may modify the type of appointment or powers granted to the guardian if the extent of protection or assistance previously granted is currently excessive or insufficient or the ward’s capacity to provide for support, care, education, health, and welfare has so changed as to warrant that action. The court may make any other order that is in the best interests of the ward or may grant other appropriate relief.

(c) Except as otherwise ordered by the court for good cause, the court, before terminating a guardianship, shall follow the same procedures to safeguard the rights of the ward as apply to a petition for guardianship. Upon presentation by the petitioner of evidence establishing a prima facie case for termination, the court shall order the termination and discharge the guardian unless it is proven that continuation of the guardianship is in the best interest of the ward.

Therefore, when the ward dies, if there is only a guardianship, the guardianship automatically terminates. However, it is obviously necessary to inform the Court of the same, so that the Court can document and close its file. Accordingly, the guardian should file a sworn/notarized Affidavit with the Court, stating that the ward has died, what date the ward died on, (perhaps) attaching a copy of the death certificate, and asking the court to issue any order the Court believes is necessary/appropriate (though technically, upon death of the ward, no order is necessary; if for some reason there was a bond in place – though it would be unusual in a guardianship – the Court should order the bond to be discharged) and asking the Court to close its file.
If there was also a conservatorship in place, additional steps need to be taken, as set forth in Minnesota Statute 524.5-431.
If you have specific questions about this or other guardianship issues, please contact experienced guardianship attorney Cindi Spence Matt.